THE DECRETO BREXIT (NO DEAL) COMPLETES ITS JOURNEY THROUGH THE ITALIAN PARLIAMENT
The Decreto Brexit is now law but will take effect only in the case of No Deal. As many of you know, in 3 short ‘articoli’ it sets out our No Deal rights (articoli 14, 15 & 17). Essentially, articolo 14 provides for those with EU permanent residence to apply to the Questore for the
extra comunitari ‘permesso di soggiorno EU per soggiornante di lungo periodo’, and for those with less than 5 years at the date of Brexit to apply, again to the Questore, for a ‘permesso di soggiorno per residenza’ which will be valid for 5 years thereby allowing the
residence period to ‘mature’ to an application for long term status – ‘per soggiornante di lungo periodo’.
But there’s a sting in the tail. One of the conditions for obtaining the new long term residence, even for those of us who already have EU permanent residence at the date of Brexit, is that we cannot have been absent from Italy for more than 6 months in any one of the preceding 5 years. This is retrospectively punishing us for exercising our EU right to be absent for up to 2 years without losing permanent residence – and all during the last 5 years when we had no idea that such a retrospective change in the law was to be made.
The Decreto provides some safeguards on the right to access both health and social security systems (articolo 17)– but primarily for those covered by the S1 – and only till 31 December 2020.
The Decreto is silent on our other rights, and leaves many unsatisfactory uncertainties.
On citizenship, it does put into law (irrespective of the form Brexit takes) the right of UK citizens with 4 years residence at the date of Brexit to be able to apply for Italian citizenship, relying on that 4 year period, up to 31 December 2020. But remember, you must have accrued the 4 years residence before Brexit date.
The Decreto Brexit’s final form includes the small amendments made in the Senato – now approved by the Camera.
British in Italy lobbied hard for changes to the law as originally published but it was an uphill struggle and we met with very limited success. Amendments were possible in the Senato but the decreto was ‘blindato’ in the Camera to ensure it passed both houses within the 60 day time limit required by the law.
We drafted and proposed 7 amendments:
– 2 were clarification of areas which the decreto leaves uncertain – what conditions do we have to comply with (other than absences) to get either of the new long term or pre-long term status, and what are our actual rights when we get them:
– 2 sought to apply EU provisions for permitted absences from Italy in the 5 years pre- Brexit (existing permanent residents) or the 5 years leading to a subsequent application for the new long term status (those with less than 5 years at the date of Brexit);
– 1 dealt with subsequent loss of long term status through absence;
– 1 sought to apply existing EU entitlement to healthcare for permanent residents who do not have a British pension and therefore, do not qualify for the S1;
– 1 sought to apply Withdrawal Agreement/EU more generous provisions on family reunification.
We had a long meeting with the ‘relatore’ in the Senato (the parliamentarian tasked with guiding the particular law through the Senato), Senator Di Piazza (M5S). We explained the amendments in detail with illustrative case studies of the problems that the decreto would
create for significant groups of UKinItaly. We also met with a PD senator Alfieri and had close contact with another PD senator Marino.
In the event the PD senators put forward our amendments. The M5S Senato group decided not to, but instead put forward some ‘ordini del giorno’, a loosely worded type of motion calling upon the government to consider acting in a particular way: it has no teeth, but some practical value.
All our amendments were voted down except one, which was modified by the government. Under the original decreto an applicant for ‘soggiorno di lungo periodo’ would be refused if they had been absent from Italy for a total of 10 months (or any single period of 6 months) during the previous 5 years. So anyone who had studied or worked abroad, who had gone to look after a sick relative or who had even simply enjoyed travelling in retirement for these periods would not be eligible.
We argued that this was totally unfair retrospective legislation since, as EU citizens we had the right to be absent for up to 2 years with no loss of permanent residence status and the rights attached to that. The government did accept removal of the 10 months total in 5 years, but would not accept our amendment and replaced it with limits of 6 months in a year (or up to 1 year where there are serious grounds such as illness or a posting abroad) – all retrospectively applied. It is very unsatisfactory – penalising many UKinItaly who have lived here for years, even decades, for having legitimately exercised their EU rights in the past 5 years (for periods abroad of up to 2 years for work, study etc), and thereby depriving them of their right to continue as permanent residents under the new law. They will have to start again with the new 5-year temporary residence permit with its effect on their rights to work, healthcare etc. that are wholly unclear.
The government made some other amendments of its own accord:
• They extended articolo 17, which empowers Italy to make a bilateral agreement with the UK to cover a wider range of reciprocal social security benefits as well as S1 reciprocal healthcare.
• They introduced a new articolo 17-bis which, subject to reciprocity with the UK, protects the rights of UK students and researchers in Italy at Brexit or arriving during the 2019/20 academic year.
• articolo 17-bis also provides for recognition of any professional qualifications already recognised under EU law, and of any for which the recognition procedure has started before Brexit. This is largely incorporating EU law, since the European Commission has already made it clear that EU law requires the recognition of qualifications already recognised.
ORDINI DEL GIORNO
Ordini del giorno, proposed by the M5S ‘maggioranza’ and accepted by the government, require the government
• to evaluate possible ways of adopting measures in areas not dealt with by the decreto, such as on family reunification, social security coordination, mutual recognition of qualifications, the recognition of the qualifications of lawyers who practise under their “home” title, the rights of cross-border workers and the rights to vote and of property.
• to evaluate the possibility of providing a transition period for the conversion of UK driving licences into ones which can be used in Italy, and of providing for the continued mutual validity of driving licences.
• to evaluate the possibility of providing a mechanism which, in order to safeguard acquired rights, allows UK citizens with an existing right of ‘soggiorno permanente’ to continue to be entitled to health care, in such a way as to ensure reciprocity with Italians in the UK. [This condition of reciprocity is already met, since EU citizens resident in the UK after Brexit will continue to be entitled to free NHS treatment but no amount of explaining to both the government and senators, including the citing of the relevant UK laws, had any effect; it fell on deaf ears.]
• there was one more ‘ordine del giorno’ which, frankly, we find incomprehensible. It will be seen that some of our rejected amendments are raised in general terms by some of these ‘ordini del giorno’. However it remains to be seen what, if anything, the
government does in response. We have been told by various sympathetic members of parliament that they rarely have any effect at all.
BRITISH IN ITALY SCORE IN THE SENATO = 1
THE CAMERA DEI DEPUTATI
After Easter the decreto went to the Camera. As we have said, it was ‘blindato’ and no amendments were allowed. However, the situation was not entirely clear at the outset, so we persisted, narrowing down our amendments to two: one to remove the unfair retrospective application of the rule on permitted absences, the other to ensure continued healthcare rights for those who had been here for 5 years by Brexit. We also had another ‘trick’ up our sleeves – to try to get the Italian parliament to support ‘ring fencing’ at EU/UK level of our rights already agreed between the UK and EU during the Withdrawal Agreement negotiations – notwithstanding the fact that we had previously tried twice to persuade the government to support ‘ring fencing’ – both before and then following the Costa Amendment in the UK parliament.
Again we met the relatore, Paolo Giuliodori (M5S), in conjunction with another M5S deputato, Ricky Olgiati (picture). They were both interested and very helpful but essentially confirmed that no amendments would be permitted. They were keen on our other idea
concerning ‘ring fencing’, and Ricky with another M5S deputy did in fact put forward an ‘ordine del giorno’ calling for ‘ring fencing’. We also met a PD deputato , Massimo Ungaro, who represents the Europe constituency and is based in London and has always been supportive of our campaign. We met and worked with him last year during our attempts to amend the application of parts of the Decreto
Sicurezza to UKinItaly. Massimo also proposed an ‘ordine del giorno’ on ring-fencing.
When it came to the debate, the PD ‘ordine del giorno’ was rejected, and whilst that of M5S was accepted in principle, the government insisted it be modified in such a way as to make it completely meaningless.
BRITISH IN ITALY SCORE IN THE CAMERA = 0
Italian politicians know very little about Brexit citizens’ rights and are generally content with the line that there are some problems for Italians in the UK which are causing anxiety and distress, but British citizens here are being treated with the utmost generosity. As our
attempted amendments show this is simply not the case. The decreto suffers from a serious lack of clarity in key areas, and in some areas where the law is clear, represents a major deprivation of rights.
As ever, we worked throughout in conjunction with the3million, who also made the case for the need to protect Italians in the UK from the ‘hostile environment’ and the risk of adverse changes by a future government.
The only group to consistently support citizens’ rights was the PD, and we are particularly grateful to Massimo Ungaro in the Camera and senators Marino and Alfieri. M5S, were always open to discussion but ultimately were unable to persuade the M5S ‘maggioranza’ to back us. But we do owe a big debt of gratitude to Cinque Stelle’s Ricky Olgiati who showed real support and was always ready to help arrange meetings with key people.
We’re conscious that we’ve been rather quiet over the past months and not keeping you all up to date so we’ve taken the opportunity to set out a little more fully what has been going on. We started with almost no relevant contacts with parliamentarians, no knowledge of the workings of parliament and the making of laws, and no easy way into finding and understanding the myriad existing Italian laws governing our various rights and which may impact on what this decreto Brexit actually means; nor indeed, how we could go about trying to get it changed.
We’ve learned that ‘many a slip twixt cup and lip’ takes on a whole new meaning in the Brexit context and promises made don’t seem to keep much of their original form or appearance when they emerge from the half-light.
A BIG THANK YOU
We are very grateful to Ricky Olgiati and Massimo Ungaro (PD) and to Paolo Giuliodori (M5S) for their support for the rights of British citizens in Italy and Italians in the UK, and for the help and guidance they have given to Jeremy and Delia of British in Italy